Excel still excels (excuse the pun) when it comes to most common business uses, but when it comes to data analysis, Microsoft Power BI blows Excel out of the water.
Sure, you can install the shared Power BI/Excel add-on - "Analyse in Excel" - but being immersed in the Power BI user interface that's been designed from the ground up – with the sole purpose of transforming diverse data sources (especially Excel data) into stunning live online Dashboards – is a joy to experience.
Know your way around Office? Then trust me, whether you use the Desktop or cloud-based version, Power BI is the greatest thing since sliced data.
You've probably already noticed Microsoft's obsession with moving their software to the cloud - including Office in the form of Office365 - so one point worth bearing in mind is that your reports and dashboards must first be published to the cloud before they can be shared either as a link or as an “IFrame” in a web page or blog post.
With monthly updates to Power BI, largely based on user community votes, Power BI's continuous improvements accelerate its adoption at an amazing rate – with the Garner Group placing Power BI as the clear leader in the Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms.
So how to get started?
Start by installing Power BI Desktop for free but ignore claims that anyone other than a genuine Power-User can construct “Business Capable” dashboards – and then only after reading recommended books (such as this excellent free Kindle e-book) and following Microsoft’s tutorials.
Undaunted by this start-up lag, most business owners will immediately recognize the value of owning their own software and data – albeit hosted on Microsoft Azure.
The point being that you have complete ownership of your reporting system.
This is very different to a 3rd party SaaS provider giving you logins and the ability to export data that’s stored on their hosted services.
The entire system – soup-to-nuts – belongs to you, under your name and it’s your valuable IP.
Whether you outsource the development of your live Dashboard Reporting System or take it on in-house, you’ll soon discover – “But wait, there’s more”.
Although both Flow and especially PowerApps have a way to go before I’d recommend them for “Mission Critical” operations, once your Dashboard Reporting System is live, you’ll be tempted to start automating manual processes based on business rules and procedures that you create using Flow.
For example, you could hook up an automated approval process to route requests, acceptances and denials across your staff and external parties.
I’ll save this added level of sophistication for a later post, but for the time being, feel free to review a recent case study of ours together with a ‘de-identified’ copy of the live dashboard report that this restaurant owner used to save $4k a month in expense leakages.
As always, your comments and suggestions will be welcomed.
Here’s to your successful business reporting, Mark.